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How to Avoid the Dangers of Baby Cot Bedding

As a parent-to-be, or a new parent it becomes very important to appreciate that the first years of a child’s life requires a fair bit of diligence. For example, despite the popularity of magazine editorials showing celebrity tots cots strewn with piles of gorgeous bedding, these images may be advocating practices which are considered to be unsafe. In fact, one of the key areas which will require keen oversight is the selection of safe and functional baby cot bedding. Quite apart from the risk of SIDS, there are also matters of comfort and hygiene which come into play with baby cot bedding.

The single most important rule to remember is that babies tend to manage heat loss efficiently when placed on the back to sleep with the head uncovered.

An Empty Cot is a Safe Cot

A very few basics are needed for a baby’s safe sleep: a firm and flat mattress which never shows the indent of the baby’s head when the baby lays on it; safe bedding – which is only considered to be a well fitted crib sheet; and a safety approved cot – cots should conform to British Safety Standards BS EN 716:2008.

With reference to the fitted sheets it should fit the mattress snugly – like a second skin. The best way to achieve this is to select fitted sheets which are elasticated all round as they have a lower chance of coming loose. Once you have fitted the sheet be sure to check for loose threads as they too might pose a hazard if they become wrapped around baby’s neck. You may also wish to consider an elasticated waterproof cover which may be wiped down, for hygiene reasons. Do ensure that the mattress fits the cot securely and that you can place no more than two fingers between the cot and the mattress.

Babies should always be laid flat on their backs. It is likewise advised that the cot be placed in the parent’s rooms for the first year of life, and at a minimum, 6 months. One of the main points to appreciate is that babies’ heads should never be covered during their sleep. Evidence suggests that babies are at increased SIDS risk if their heads are covered, and if unnecessary items are placed in the baby’s cot – which increases the risk of accidents.

When babies are asleep, cots should be kept clear of:
  • Pillows and duvets
  • Comforters
  • Bumpers
  • Soft toys
  • Loose bedding
  • ‘Sleep devices’ such as wedges and straps which are marketed to keep baby in a stationery sleeping position
Importantly, remember that thick blankets, quilts, and pillows are particularly notorious as they potentially can block a baby’s airways which could induce sleep-related suffocation. Please also bear in mind that neither blankets nor cushions should be placed under the sleeping infant. This rule also applies to baby sleeping bags, where the baby’s feet should be at the bottom to prevent them from wriggling down.

But how to keep baby warm?

To keep a baby warm, it is considered acceptable that baby sleeps in infant sleep clothing and sleeping sacks. This is a safer option than wrapping the baby in a blanket.

Feet to Foot Position

Babies wriggling around during their sleep is inevitable. However, do make sure to place the babies feet at the bottom of the cot.

Pillow Talk

A required very firm mattress combined with a soft scalp can cause plagiocephaly aka flat head syndrome – a condition where baby’s scalp becomes misshapen due to constant contact with a firm surface. Do not be tempted to use the pillow for infants which are marketed to treat this condition – it is important to note that SIDS is increased 2.5 fold just by the use of a pillow. Plagiocephaly may look alarming, but it is worth noting that it does not increase the incident of SIDs. If you are concerned about the condition, ensure to speak to your health care provider. You can also ensure babies spend plenty of their waking hours enjoying tummy time as a way to combat the flat head condition.

Bump the Bumper

Once baby is mobile and can roll around independently, cot bumpers pose a health risk. Sadly, many babies have become entangled in ties and material, or suffered from falls as a result of standing on the bumper and hoisting themselves up and over the cot. While they may look charming it is safer to avoid them and to stick to minimal and necessary bedding.

Blankets

Paediatricians advise that before the age of 12 months, no blankets should be present in a baby’s cot. This recommendation is based on deep research into SIDs. However, post the 12-month mark, if you are considering using a blanket in your baby’s cot it is worth noting the following:

    • The bigger the blanket the bigger the risk of strangulation and suffocation. Even when your baby turns one this remains a big safety consideration.
    • All blanket materials are not made equal. Blankets made with muslin or ‘cellular’ material are thought to be safer as they are inherently more breathable. Weighted blankets that are occasionally used by older children with sensory challenges must not be used for infants
    • Even when a child is older, blankets with long strings or ribbons present a choking hazard so blankets with these accents should not be used within a cot

At 12 months a baby generally has better developed motor skills which might make it easier to push objects away from the face if breathing is being affected. What’s more, a baby at this age might become very attached to their blanket and this attachment might help with sleep induced anxiety. However, even post 12 months, it is worth noting that if your child tends to move a lot during their sleep it might be best to use a sleep sack or footed pyjamas as these might be safer than blankets.

If the time comes that you do decide to use a blanket, ensure that the blanket is never placed higher than chest level and that the blanket is tucked into the mattress in the cot or crib.

For older children check out the Bashful Bunny Blanket by Jellycat, available on the Dragons website.

Swaddling

What about swaddling? Research in Belgian has shown that swaddling may reduce SIDS as the baby startles more easily. It is advised not to swaddle the baby too tightly as babies need to continue to be able to squirm and kick. Paediatricians recommend stopping swaddling around 2 months old before the baby is rolling independently – remember that the baby will need access to their hands to flip over once they can do so.

Joy Archer is a trained journalist who defected from her job in the City to become an interior designer. Now, many fabulous projects later she combines her writing skills with her love of all things interiors and babies in her role as PR for Dragons of Walton Street. Joy’s favourite Dragons piece is the huge friendly brown lion which she pats every morning for good luck.

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